Clea Bradford RIP

Example

Miss Clea Bradford

Example

“Listen – My Love’s a Monster MP3″

Greetings all.

A few weeks ago I got an e-mail that indicated that singer Clea Bradford had passed away. I was unable to confirm it until a few days ago when a reader posted a link to her obit. Bradford, who was 67 and was living in Maryland, had spent most of her career as a jazz singer, though the selection I’m reposting today reveals that she had her way with soul as well. ‘My Love’s a Monster’ is a personal fave and always has a spot in my DJ box.

I hope you dig the tune (I know you will) and I’ll see you all on Monday.

Peace

Larry

ORIGINALLY POSTED IN SEPTEMBER 2006

The record you’ll be hearing today was requested by one of our regular readers about a month ago. While the Funky16Corners blog isn’t a jukebox, I am not averse to taking (and honoring, when possible) requests for specific tunes. As long as I have a copy of said tune taking up space in my crates (and I remember where it is) I have no problem working it into the rotation. As I said on Monday, I’m usually selecting tunes to post sometimes a month in advance (husband and father type duties requiring that I condense my record-related work into short, intense periods of activity), so if someone makes a request, it may end up taking a little while to end up on yon blogspot, but it will get there.

The performer of today’s selection, Clea Bradford, is one I haven’t been able to find out much about. As far as I can tell she may have begun her career based out of St. Louis, Mo, where she often worked with the Quartette Tres Bien. She went on to record LPs for Prestige, Mainstream and Cadet through the 60’s, as well as 45s for the Tru-Sound and Hi-Q labels. The song I bring you today, ‘My Love’s a Monster’ was recorded for Cadet in 1968 and appeared on the LP ‘Her Point of View’.

The song is (much like Clea’s love) a monster. This is due in large part to the fact that it was co-written, arranged and produced by the legendary Richard Evans. During the 60’s and early 70’s, Evans – who started his career as a jazz bassist – produced and arranged a wide range of truly amazing records for the Cadet label. Like Charles Stepney (with whom he sometimes collaborated) Evans was one of the true “auteurs” of the Cadet sound, masterminding the Soulful Strings, and creating legendary recordings with the likes of Dorothy Ashby, Terry Callier, Marlena Shaw and Ramsey Lewis among others (for a deeper look at Richard Evans, follow this link to an article I wrote about him at the Funky16Corners web zine).

His recordings with Marlena Shaw – including crate digger classics like ‘Woman of the Ghetto’ and ‘California Soul’ – are an important reference point to ‘My Love’s a Monster’. Bradford – like Shaw – was essentially a jazz vocalist recording in a soul/funk frame of reference. Evans was a master of blurring the lines between jazz and funk, creating records that contained elements of both, often mixing big band brass with funky bass lines and breakbeats (not to mention unusual elements like kalimba and harp).

While the end result may be a little to polished for aficionados of the gritty funk 45, if you are a listener possessed of a certain taste and perspicacity, you are likely to find that once sampled, you are driven to seek out more of the same.

Opening with a brass flourish, followed by the rhythm section laying down a funky groove, ‘My Love’s a Monster’ is in all aspects a BIG record. Bradford’s vocal is strong and assured, and the brilliant production manages to keep her voice out front, even while the instrumental track is absolutely booming. I love Bradford’s near-scatting in the breakdowns leading into the chorus remind me of Solomon Burke’s similar performance in 1966’s “Keep Looking”.

While I can’t say with any certainty who’s playing on this 45, I’ll go ahead and assume that it’s the usual suspects, i.e. the Chess/Cadet house band, and as always, they do an amazing job. The lead guitar is outstanding – dig how it keeps popping up in the mix – and the drums are hard as hell.

As far as I can tell ‘My Love’s a Monster’ has not been comped, which is at least to me, incomprehensible. This is sister funk of the first order, a party starter, floor filler etc, and for a record like this to be overlooked is nothing short of criminal. One group of people who hasn’t overlooked it is DJ-types, which might explain why it’s not a cheap 45, but not overly expensive either ($25 – $35 bucks seems to be the going rate). The LP (which I’ve heard may have a different mix of this tune) is also find-able in a similar price range. Hopefully someone out there with the wherewithal will put together a comp of Richard Evans productions, and include this track. In any event, as I just gave myself the idea, I’ll make sure to put together an episode of Funky16Corners radio highlighting that material. Look for it this Fall.

PS Johnny Sayles has a tune called ‘My Love’s a Monster’ (which I’ve never heard), but since it came out in 1965 (on the Chi-Town label) , and the Clea Bradford record was co-written by Bradford and Richard Evans, I’m guessing it’s a different song. If anyone knows different, please let me know.

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9 Responses to “Clea Bradford RIP”

  1. Dave Says:

    very sad news. great record.

  2. Planet Mondo Says:

    Off topic (with no disrespect intended), but following on from your Gladys Knight Sly cover – have you heard Peggy Lee’s Everyday People – well worth digging for.

  3. funky16corners Says:

    PM
    No disrespect taken. I’m always on the lookout for that late period Peggy Lee stuff. I know there’s a smoking version of ‘Spinning Wheel’. Unfortunately I think most of that stuff has been scarfed up already.
    L

  4. maxwell Says:

    Thanks for the share. Respect for those gone before us.

  5. cathy Says:

    Hello, Clea Bradford was a dear friend of mine. I went to her funeral service. I took some vocal coaching from her in the 1980’s. her obit is
    linked on my website: http://www.cathypontonking.com Don’t publish my e mail address. I have been searching on line to buy her records. My good friend Larry Benicewicz, the Baltimore blues writer (put his name in Google for his excellent stories), is writing something indepth on Clea Bradford right now. She passed away Aug. 20th. I will miss her very much. Last night I heard “NOW”, the LP which my husband bought me on e bay. SHe used the native american name Clea Bradford Silverlight, to celebrate her Choctaw heritage. She was a vibrant and beautiful and talented friend. today is Sept. 6th. Cathy Ponton King

  6. Debbie Sayles Says:

    My father was Johnny Sayles and yes, he did record My Love’s a Monster.

    Debbie Sayles

  7. Travis Says:

    Hi – thanks for posting this record…I just found the Johnny Sayles song on-line, and it’s definitely a different song. Pretty great, too.

    -Cheers, Travis

  8. Calvin Jacobs Says:

    Sorry to hear of her passing. “My Loves a Monster” was a great song. My older brothers and sisters bought the record when I was a kid but it was very memorible, a true classic, and funky. We’d laugh and dance while listening to this record. I’m hoping I’m able to find a copy of it. Hopefully someone will put it on CD from a 45″ copy somewhere which is what we had (the 45″”). I’m still checking if its in our old record collection. If anyone can find it please let me know. Thank You… Calvin Jacobs… Detroit

  9. F16C Halloween – Johnny Sayles – My Love’s a Monster « Funky16Corners Says:

    [...] a copy). The previous mention was in relation to a past Funky16Corners Halloween post of the late Clea Bradford’s song of the same title. When I first wrote about that record I knew that the Sayles ‘My Love’s a Monster’ existed, [...]

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